Speech and the use of a Dummy or Pacifier
“Should I offer my baby a dummy or will this affect their later speech development?”
All babies are born with the desire to suck, nutritive sucking provides nourishment so the baby can grow. Non-Nutritive sucking provides pleasure as well as calms the baby.
What most parents get confused about is:
What type of dummy should I use?
The size and shape of dummies do vary, therefore it is important that it fits the size of your baby’s mouth. Most dummies have an outer shield moulded to the shape of the lips. It is important that this outer shield promotes lip closure. A Cherry shape dummy is one of the better shapes, avoid any that are ''orthodontic' ' in description as these have been proven to harm the development of the mouth muscles for speech.
How often should my baby have the dummy?
A dummy should not be used as a plug to keep the baby quiet.
Babies begin to communicate from birth by making noises and babbling. It is important that babies are given the opportunity to talk and so it is important that the dummy doesn’t stop this communication development. If you must use a dummy never use them when the baby is awake, use them for sleep only and leave then in the cot. If a dummy is needed during the baby's awake time then your baby is over tired and should be put to bed.
At what age should I take away the dummy?
Try to get your child out of the habit as soon as possible, however a dummy/pacifier is preferable to thumb or finger sucking since the dummy habit is easier to break. Baby teeth are very important as they guide the development of your child’s adult teeth. At approximately 6-12 months of age your baby’s first front tooth will appear and by the age of 3 years they will have all 20 teeth. At six months or earlier would be the ideal time to remove the dummy sucking habit. By twelve months a baby should be taking a cup instead of bottles for the same reason.
Can a dummy affect my child’s speech development?
In the short term dummy &/or thumb sucking should not have a significant effect on the development of the oral muscles, relationship of the teeth and speech development. If, persistent dummy and for that matter bottle sucking continues for many years, this can affect the muscles and developing boans of the mouth. This can cause the tongue to sit forward between the teeth and affect the position of the teeth. This may then cause some speech difficulties. Also if the dummy is used to keep the child quiet they may be delayed in developing language as they are not given opportunities to communicate.
If you have any concerns you can contact your local Community Health Centre and speak to a Speech Pathologist.
Written by: Melissa Serafin, Senior Speech Pathologist Westmead Hospital
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